This blog post was written by Rear Admiral Ted Carter, Commander Enterprise Carrier Strike Group (CSG 12), following a port visit in Piraeus, Greece by the USS Enterprise (CVN 65) and USS Vicksburg (CG 69). The strike group has now arrived in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility, but in this post the admiral highlights the visit to Greece, which was actually a reunion of sorts.
Nearly 50 years ago, the beautiful port city of Piraeus, Greece, played host to the United States Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, the USS Enterprise (CVAN 65). Last week, that same ship was spotted off the coast, moored out in the beautiful waters of Pireaus, a suburb and the port city of Athens, where the Sailors and Marines aboard the Big E and USS Vicksburg (CG 69) were greeted with the same hospitality and openness that has characterized our Navy’s visits to Greece for decades. Today as we leave that coast behind, I had a moment to consider the true importance of this wonderful visit.
On the day of our arrival, Enterprise and her crew had the rare opportunity to host nearly 600 Greek officials from the Greek military, all levels of government, and the local embassies. The U.S. Ambassador to Greece, the Honorable Daniel Smith, Greek National Minister of Defense, Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos and VADM Frank Pandolfe, our Sixth Fleet Commander, welcomed the guests and our very own Enterprise Chorus sang the US and Greek anthems… yes, in Greek- Kudos to the Chorus- I received nothing but rave reviews from the Greeks in attendance. The crew prepared a delicious menu and offered tours to our guests. What I found most enjoyable was watching the interaction between our guests and our Sailors and Marines of all ranks, backgrounds and ages. Although so many miles separate the nations both groups defend, it was quickly apparent to me how our common values of democracy and human rights can tear down any language or cultural barriers. Opportunities like this reception allow us to renew our shared commitments and goals on a personal level and are invaluable to the future generations of Navy and Marine Corps leadership.
With just a few days to see so much, Big E and Vicksburg Sailors and Marines filled the liberty boats from early in the morning to late at night, anxious to experience the history and the beauty of Greece as much as possible. Just like their shipmates nearly half a century ago on their first visit to Pireaus, Enterprise Sailors filled the city capturing memories that will certainly last a lifetime.
Our Sailors and Marines aren’t the only ones with special memories, however. It is my hope that the over 700 Greek national guests who had an opportunity to tour Big E during her final deployment also enjoyed an experience that is unlike any other. We are proud of our Strike Group, and the Sailors and Marines who showed her off during shipboard tours demonstrated this pride. We were honored to also have VADM Kosmas Christidis, the Chief of the Hellenic Navy General Staff, aboard during our final day in port. His visit was an outstanding sharing of ideas and allowed us to join each other in discussion of our mutual interests for our great Navys.
While we greatly enjoyed our time in Piraeus and the opportunity it presented us to reflect on the history of our nation’s most recognizable aircraft carrier, it is time to move forward, on to our next mission – focused and ready to perform at the level that has characterized the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group throughout her existence.
Efharisto (Thank you in Greek) and Fair Winds,
RDML Ted “Slapshot” Carter
Commander, Enterprise Carrier Strike Group